Ex-DSI chief Tarit gets year in jail for defaming Suthep

Ex-DSI chief Tarit gets year in jail for defaming Suthep

Former Department of Special Investigation chief Tarit Pengdith (centre) is escorted from the Supreme Court to Bangkok Remand Prison on Friday after he was sentenced to 12 months in jail for defaming former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban in 2013. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)
Former Department of Special Investigation chief Tarit Pengdith (centre) is escorted from the Supreme Court to Bangkok Remand Prison on Friday after he was sentenced to 12 months in jail for defaming former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban in 2013. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)

The Supreme Court on Friday sentenced former Department of Special Investigation chief Tarit Pengdith to one year in jail without suspension for defaming Suthep Thaugsuban with comments about a police station construction project her oversaw when deputy prime minister, overturning the lower courts’ rulings.

Mr Suthep filed suit against Mr Tarit in February 2013 after the then-DSI chief suggested at a series of press conferences between Jan 21 and Feb 4, 2013 that  Mr Suthep was responsible for the failure of a 6.67 billion baht project to build 396 police stations.

Their construction was endorsed by the cabinet during the then-Abhisit Vejjajiva administration, in which Mr Suthep was a deputy premier.

Mr Suthep was accused of not having consulted fellow ministers regarding changes to the project. Many police stations were left unfinished when PCC Development & Construction, the sole contractor,  abandoned it.

In the lawsuit, the political firebrand said Mr Tarit’s remarks were totally untrue and had damaged his reputation. 

On March 26, 2015, the Criminal Court acquitted Mr Tarit of the charge. The court said Mr Tarit was DSI chief at the time and had the right to hold news conferences to examine or question what he saw as possible irregularities in the project because it had drawn huge public attention. 

On May 3, 2016, the Appeal Court upheld the lower court’s ruling. It found that there was no weight in the plaintiff’s evidence. Mr Suthep appealed to the Supreme Court.

Mr Tarit had his lawyer issue a public apology ahead of the Supreme Court’s ruling. He also asked the lawyer to bring along 100,000 baht to offer as settlement. However, Mr Suthep refused to forgive the former DSI chief.

Mr Tarit had earlier asked former attorney-general Kanit na Nakhon to mediate in the dispute. 

Mr Tarit's public apology and plea reversal to guilty were made despite his having been cleared of the defamation charge by both the Criminal Court and the Appeal Court.

The former DSI chief said earlier he was surprised by Mr Suthep's response, because the former deputy prime minister had asked him to issue a public apology to end the dispute.

Mr Kanit, meanwhile, confirmed Mr Tarit's comments about the public apology demanded by Mr Suthep, Thai media reported.


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